Here is a quick scenario and straight to point concept of what check for understanding should look like in your classroom. I have also put other TEACH indicators in parenthesis to help you understand what these indicators look like during a lesson....
Check for understanding should be a simple and effective way to make sure your students completely understand the objective that was taught. Of course you want to have 100% during your check for understanding, but sometimes that is just not the case. You probably already know which students understand and which students do not. Use different strategies in order to check for understanding for ALL students. For example, if you have 20 students in your classroom and you know that 13 students have mastered the skill by verbalizing it through questioning, white boards, or any other way you chose to check for understanding, then you want to focus on various strategies in order to get the remaining 7 students to be able to demonstrate understanding of the objective as well. (TEACH 1- Objective Driven Lesson)
*Notice I said "objective" and not "activity". :)
Questions to ask yourself:
1. What am I going to do within the time limit that I have (TEACH 7- Maximize Instructional Time) to get these 7 students to be able to tell me the learning objective or to demonstrate understanding of the objective?
2. How will I use the other 13 students to assist me in getting these students to understand the learning objective? (Think about scaffolding strategies and different Teach Like a Champion strategies)
3. Do I know various engaging strategies/activities that could help me weed out the ones that could easily understand the objective compared to the ones that have no idea in order to focus on these fewer students? (TEACH 4- Content Engagement/Differentiated Instruction)
4. Do I know various ways to check for understanding during whole group that are quick and effective (Quick Check) in order to differentiate my small group instruction (TEACH 4- Content Engagement) to not only bring the students that DO understand the objective to higher levels (TEACH 5- Higher Leveled Thinking) ,but to work with the ones that do not understand to get them to understand?
All of these questions are critical as the teacher when trying to check for understanding of ALL students. The word "majority" should not be in your vocabulary when checking for understanding. When you have the majority of students demonstrate understanding of the learning objective, this is great! You have taught them well! Now it is time to take what they have learned and move them to the next level. At this point, take the majority, and give them an activity that is differentiated and objective driven, but at higher levels (TEACH 5- Higher Leveled Thinking). Use the opportunity that you have to work one on one with the group of students that have no idea in order to get them to understand the objective that is being taught. By doing this, you could possibly have 100% of students understand the objective by the end of the lesson! In other words... a possible 5 on your evaluation under the TEACH 6 indicator! Not to mention you are hitting other indicators as well.
Here are some strategies that you could use to check for understanding:
Use Cold Call.
• Call on students regardless of whether they have hands raised, using a variety of techniques such as
random calls or tracking charts to ensure all students contribute, name sticks or name cards.
• Scaffold the questions from simple to increasingly complex, probing for deeper explanations.
• Connect thinking threads by returning to previous comments and connecting them to current ones.
In this way, listening to peers is valued, and even after a student’s been called on, he or she is part of the
continued conversation and class thinking.
Use No Opt Out.
• Require all students to correctly answer questions posed to them.
• Always follow incorrect or partial answers from students by giving the correct answer themselves, cold
calling other students, taking a correct answer from students with hands raised, cold calling other
students until the right answer is given, and then returning to any student who gave an incorrect or
partial answer for complete and correct responses.
Use guided practice before releasing students to independent application.
• Ask students to quickly try the task at hand in pairs or in a low-stakes environment.
• Strategically circulate, monitoring students’ readiness for the task and noting students who may need
reteaching or would benefit from an extension or more challenging independent application.
• Use an appropriate quick-check strategy to determine differentiation or effective support during
independent application time.
Quick Check Tools and Protocols: (Find some that work for YOU!)
The following tools and protocols promote engagement by checking for all students’ understanding and by reflecting on and emphasizing effective work habits.
When a one- or two-word answer can show understanding, self- or group assessment, or readiness for a task, teachers ask students to respond to a standard prompt one at a time, in rapid succession around the room.
Students have small white boards at their desks or tables and write their ideas/thinking/ answers down and hold up their boards for teacher and/or peer scanning.
• Hot Seat
The teacher places key reflection or probing questions on random seats throughout the room. When prompted, students check their seats and answer the questions. Students who do not have a hot seat question are asked to agree or disagree with the response and explain their thinking.
• Fist-to-Five or Thumb-Ometer
To show degree of agreement, readiness for tasks, or comfort with a learning target/concept, students can quickly show their thinking by putting their thumbs up, to the side or down; or by holding up (or placing a hand near the opposite shoulder) a fist for 0/Disagree or 1-5 fingers for higher levels of confidence or agreement.
• Red Light, Green Light
Students have red, yellow, and green objects accessible (e.g. popsicle sticks, poker chips, cards), and when prompted to reflect on a learning target or readiness for a task, they place the color on their desk that describes their comfort level or readiness (red: stuck or not ready; yellow: need support soon; green: ready to start). Teachers target their support for the reds first, then move to yellows and greens. Students change their colors as needed to describe their status.
• Table Tags
Place paper signs/table tents in three areas with colors, symbols or descriptors that indicate possible student levels of understanding or readiness for a task or target. Students sit in the area that best describes them, moving to a new area when relevant.
• Admit and Exit Tickets
Any relevant questions, prompts, or graphic displays of student thinking can be captured on a small sheet of paper and scanned by the teacher or other students to determine a student’s readiness for the next step or assess learning from a lesson. Teachers may use admit slips as a “ticket to enter” a discussion, protocol or activity. These may also be used as “tickets to leave.”
• Four Corners
“Four Corners” is an interactive way for students to demonstrate their thinking, or solidify new information, about a topic. Procedure:
1. Determine a question for students to consider.
2. Create 4 choice sheets, each with a different word or phrase that responds to the question.
3. Post each of the 4 choice sheets in a different corner (or area) of the room.
4. Pose the question to students, and direct them to respond, or ‘vote,’ by moving to one of the four corners.
5. Once students are in corners, ask them to talk with other students in their corner about why they chose
• Milling to Music
“Milling to Music” is a Checking for Understanding Technique where students can share their thinking, class work, or homework in an interactive way with their peers. This activity is similar to Musical Chairs, except there are no chairs and no one gets ‘tagged-out.’ While the music is playing, students should dance around to move throughout the room; when the music stops, each student will share his/her thinking or work with the student closest to her/him. Have students do this twice, so they have the opportunity to share with two peers.
Wow! I am excited that you finished reading all about Check for Understanding and you actually UNDERSTAND! Here is your exit ticket! Now you may go read more blogs on different TEM indicators! Have fun!